By Mary Beth Sheridan
Thursday, December 9, 2010; A09
Former president George H.W. Bush called Wednesday on the Senate to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia, adding his influential voice to a chorus of former officials backing the pact as it awaits a critical vote.
President Obama has said passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is his top foreign policy priority in Congress's current lame-duck session. But many Republicans have said there isn't enough time to consider it.
In a one-sentence statement, Bush said, "I urge the United States Senate to ratify the START treaty."
The treaty has won the support of all living former secretariesof state, including Condoleezza Rice, who served Bush's son, President George W. Bush. She came out in favor of the treaty Tuesday. It also has the support of nearly all former commanders of the U.S. nuclear force.
George H.W. Bush's endorsement could serve as political cover for Republicans who have privately expressed willingness to support the treaty but were cautious about breaking with GOP members.
Obama said Wednesday that he was "confident" that New START would be ratified before the holiday break.
The treaty had stalled over Republican concerns about the pact's effect on missile defense, as well as their request for guaranteed funding to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal.